Working in Helsinki

Young man and older woman in the Oodi Central Library

There are many reasons why working in Helsinki is a great experience. Residents are hardworking and trustworthy, the Nordic welfare state provides stability and security, and there are limitless opportunities for business at this European junction between east and west. 

High levels of gender equality, generous holiday and parental leaves, and relatively fast commutes are also big bonuses. In addition, the city has several helpful services to help you find work or start a business.

Average salary

In 2019, the median earnings level in Finland was EUR 3,140 per month. In Finland, almost all employees are entitled to a pay level in line with the collective labour agreement in their field. This system of collective agreements means that there is no minimum wage.

Close to two out of every three employees in Finland belong to a trade union. It is a good idea to join a union or unemployment fund if you start working in Helsinki, as it can provide you with assistance and security.

Where can I learn more about standard contracts, wages and working hours in Finland?

Ring the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) helpline for international jobseekers at +358 800 414 004 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with questions.

What else do I need to know about the rules associated with working in Helsinki?

Finland’s Employment Contracts Act has more information on standard employee and employer rights and responsibilities in Finland.

Taxation

Employees in Helsinki pay a municipal tax (18 per cent in 2021), a progressive state tax, and various minor taxes on their gross earned income. According to a recent OECD study, a one-income family with two children paid an average tax rate of 24.7 per cent in 2019, once child-related benefits and other tax provisions were taken into account. 

The Finnish Tax Administration (Vero) calculates a withholding tax percentage for all employees. Employers withhold these taxes directly from your salary, so you must make sure that your employer has access to your tax card.

At the end of each year, Vero calculates whether the amount that has been withheld is sufficient. It will either return the excess to you or ask you to pay back taxes to make up the difference. The Finnish tax system does not require employees to personally pay pension insurance fees, and there are no voluntary pension contributions or employer matching systems. 

Need more information on paying taxes in Helsinki? See the Vero webpages on arriving in Finland from overseas and try out the tax percentage calculator.

Working hours

As a rule, working hours in Finland should not exceed 40 hours a week. Employers should provide lunch and coffee breaks for employees working for more than six hours at a time. If you work at least 14 days or 35 hours per month, you accrue annual holidays.

Finland has recently made it even easier for employees to agree on flexible working hours with their employers. In addition, parents and guardians have different options for part-time work.

Families are entitled to nearly a year of paid family leave when children are born. Both mothers and fathers can take leaves from work to care for a child. In addition, one parent can take parental leave or work part-time until the child is three years old without fear of losing their position.

Do you have questions about maternity, paternity and parental allowances in Finland? The website of the state benefits agency Kela is a good source of information, and our section on Family services in Helsinki also contains more details on the subject.

Workplace behaviour and expectations

Workplaces in Finland expect their employees to be independent and take care of the tasks they have been assigned. Finns appreciate promptness. If a meeting is scheduled to start at 8 am, your co-workers will expect you to be there, ready to start, at that time. The same applies to deadlines. 

Most people are on first-name basis with their supervisors and co-workers. Your co-workers may give your work very direct feedback, as residents of Finland value straightforward talk and honesty. 

Finns tolerate silence well. Don’t be alarmed if a room falls quiet from time to time.

Equality is highly valued in Finland. Employment rates for women and men have been quite similar for a long time. In 2019, the employment rate was 73.3 per cent for men and 71.8 per cent for women.

Discriminatory behaviour is against the law and not tolerated.

Will I be expected to speak Finnish at work? Some jobs do not require you to speak Finnish or Swedish, but learning Finnish will definitely improve your prospects.

This short video answers many basic questions about working life in Helsinki.
Is Helsinki a great place to work?

Well, the University of Helsinki thinks so! Read their 10 reasons to work in Helsinki for a great list of the city’s strong points.

Work visa and permits

The Finnish Immigration Service asks all applicants to prove they can earn their own livelihood if they wish to stay in the country for a longer period. Current laws grant workers the right to live in Finland permanently after five years of residence.

Citizens of EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland

EU citizens are free to work and job hunt in Finland for up to three months without any formalities. After this they must register with the Finnish Immigration Service and the population register. Nordic citizens must submit a notification of move.

Citizens of other countries

Citizens of non-EU countries must obtain a residence permit on the basis of employment before they enter the country to work. The immigration authorities will not grant this kind of residence permit before you find a job. If you are granted a residence permit on other grounds, for example for family ties, it may include the right to work.

Did you see our step-by-step guide for relocating to Helsinki? See our First Steps Checklist for more information on the necessary steps associated with moving to Helsinki from abroad.

Start your own business in Helsinki

If you’ve got a good business idea and adequate financing, you can easily start a business in Helsinki. The latest Global Competitiveness Report ranked Finland as the best of 141 countries in terms of SME financing and third for venture capital availability. The country also received top points for macroeconomic and financial stability.

The City of Helsinki is very supportive of entrepreneurs and budding business ideas, which makes Helsinki the perfect start-up ecosystem for visionaries, companies looking to expand, and potential investors.

NewCo Helsinki is a free business advisory service whose experts and partner networks can help draw up business plans and secure the necessary permits, as well as advise about the necessary accounting services and insurance. In addition, Helsinki Business Hub has compiled a step-by-step guide for setting up a business and provides access to a virtual co-working space that links entrepreneurs with important connections.

And don’t forget that the state provides a startup grant to entrepreneurs that meet the criteria. It is designed to provide new business owners with income during the time that they get their business up and running. The Finnish state looks out for business owners whose enterprises fail, so don’t be afraid to give your idea a try.

Business Finland offers a Startup Kit to help get your business idea off the ground.

What are the rules and responsibilities associated with being self-employed in Finland?

See InfoFinland’s outline of entrepreneurial obligations, which includes information on start-up notifications, statutory pension contributions, and bookkeeping responsibilities.

Recognition of earlier studies and qualifications

Recognition of qualifications refers to an official decision on the types of eligibility that a foreign qualification gives. It is often necessary when applying for a job or a place of study in Finland. 

The Finnish National Agency for Education and a set of other authorities are in charge of determining the compatibility of different international qualifications with their Finnish equivalents. The agency’s website includes a helpful list of the professions that are subject to regulation.

People in need of a recognition of qualifications should contact the Finnish National Agency for Education or the authority that regulates their field of study or work.